At the grocery store a few weeks ago, the beets I wanted were buy a kilo, get a kilo free ( 4.4 pounds total). Beets are sold with their greens in Greece, resulting in abundant purple bouquets with roots for flowers. Unfortunately there wasn’t much room in my basket for two bunches and since I only cook for Spyros and me, I feared the second kilo would meet its eventual doom in the waste bin. So, beet bunch in basket, I headed to the vegetable weighing station.
Many Greek grocery stores aren’t equipped with scales at the checkout counter, so produce must be weighed by an employee prior to checkout. That day the man at the station was more helpful than I had expected. You know ma’am, he said squinting at me, you can get another kilo for free. At first I smiled and pretended I hadn’t understood—which sometimes helps when you’re a foreigner and want to be ignored—but he persisted. You have exactly one kilo now, I’ll get you your free bunch. Before I could protest, he was off. Seconds later he returned, grinning and holding an equally lush heap of beets. I couldn’t help finding him charming. I thanked him and squeezed the beets in my basket.
For the rest of the shopping expedition, I lugged my four-and-a-half pounds of beets through the aisles and wondered what I’d do with them. Put them in a cake? Boil them? Luckily I have very helpful friends on Facebook who were kind enough to offer some ideas. Spyros and I finally decided to roast the lot of them following this recipe.
Roasting intensifies the sugars in beets and tossing a few thyme sprigs into the pan adds a light perfume. They paired well with the Skordalia from March 25. They also made tasty grain bowls with brown rice for lunch. All too soon we (I) finished all five pounds.
Just a few days later I stumbled on a recipe for a savory beet and feta muffin. I know some of you might question the logic of a beet and feta breakfast muffin. And I must admit, so did I. But I had hoped the muffins would make a healthy, sweet and salty treat.
The muffins were a photogenic bunch and would have made a great addition to a picnic or brunch buffet. But Spyros and I ate them on a Thursday morning before work. At that hour, munching diced beets and feta is a bit too reminiscent of dinner. I wished I could incorporate the beets’ sweetness throughout the entire muffin, rather than confine it to small dices. Then, I realized, I could. I’d just puree the beets and stir them into the muffins along with the feta. With my last two beets, I tried my idea.
The batter turned party-pretty pink.
We ate them the next day for breakfast, again before work. They were softer than the previous batch and sweeter, with just a whisper of beet and cheese—like a barely sweet cheesecake. They made filling, savory breakfast for us adults but I think they’d also make a nice treat for children and a great way to sneak extra veggies into their diet. I should really go back to the grocery store and thank the produce guy. Then again, I’m sure he only envisioned them roasted, in a salad. For now I’ll limit my vegetable experiments to this blog.
Beet and Feta Muffins
2 cups whole wheat flour
A big pinch of salt
3 ½ teaspoons baking powder
125ml (4 ¼ fl oz.) extra virgin olive oil
1 cup full-fat milk
2 large (or 4 small) whole beetroots, roasted and peeled
175 g (6 oz) feta cheese, crumble
- Preheat oven to 190o C (375oF). In a food processor, puree the roasted beetroot with ½ tablespoon hot water until a smooth paste forms, adding a little more water, if needed. Set aside.
- Stir the flour, salt, and baking powder together in a large bowl.
- Whisk the olive oil, milk, egg, and beet puree in a separate bowl; stir into the dry ingredients with a wooden spoon until just combined. Fold in the feta.
- Spoon batter into greased and paper-cup lined muffin trays and bake for 15 minutes or until a tester comes out clean.
To roast beetroot: Scrub and rinse the beetroot well. In a glass baking dish, drizzle the unpeeled beets with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. You could throw in a few garlic gloves and a couple thyme sprigs, if you like. Cover the dish tightly with foil and roast for 1 hour at 180oc (350oF) until a fork goes through them easily. Rub off the skins while still warm.